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Things Fall Apart

Chinese thoughts on the Federation

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Country of Multiple Nations

Mahathir Mohamad’s views concerning Johor and Sarawak have received elaboration — and dare we say, support — at a number of places (Jebat1, Jebat2, Kadir, Syed Akbar). In his defense, there is a throwback to the old ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ notion of a national ‘race’ or identity and which, in turn, is posited against regional sentiments. Mahathir’s primary concern is that regionality, driven far enough, would lead to, after Singapore, a further breakup of the Federation. This is neither reasoned argument nor fact; it is just a claim.

The Chinese have a stake in those claims. Not least is this, it is better to live in Johor or Sarawak than in Kelantan because there nobody could be free, not even when you go for a hair cut, and not even for the most pious imam.

There is a far more compelling reason to enter this fray: for the sake of a best possible outcome, federation or no federation.

Because ideas tend to be nebulous, difficult to nail down, hence different in feel from objective reality (a tree, a stone and so on), almost all critical terms employed in discussing about the federation have been highly abstract. Consequently, a few points of clarification are called for.

1. National identity. This seems to the pivot of the arguments. For the purpose of elucidation, Lee Kuan Yew is useful. He once described Singapore this way: it is a country united but not yet a single nation. Huh? What he means is this: Country is generic and a commonly used term; nation is political specific. Restated, a country is a composite of multiple ethnics but — and this is critical — already united under a single flag, single government, four official languages and so on. Nation is one country, one ethnicity, etc. This implies a united country is not necessary a united nation; nor does it say which is preferred.

Does a nation exists anywhere then? Those camel-Saudis come to mind. But it’s not even a nation in its definitive sense: It is a family-run dictatorial enterprise called the House of al-Saud; a sub-tribe group, 1975 native population 7 mn, 1985 doubled that; naturally, an impossibility even if every female including prepubescent girl gives birth to two children a year without stop — the poor female of an Arabian species. (The Saudis didn’t have a proper census until the 1970s and wasn’t really interested even after: their agong cum prime minister had been fixed even before birth.)

In the opposite of a single nation, Yugoslavia is another example. The breakup of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR were essentially attempts to fit into the Westphalian (and the UN) notion of a single nation-state wherein a sovereign independent state power = nation, both contained within the physical, geography limits of a thing called country.

Yet, every country outside Europe — without exception — doesn’t fit that European model neatly. Malaysia’s problem is no different. China, even today, never sees itself as an ideological state, such as France or Britain wherein established laws (a Constitution being mostly widely used, as opposed to use of armed force or a family enterprise) make up the means of independent sovereignty. China’s history is too long for all that and so Chinese see themselves as a civilization state rather than as a nation-state. In China’s case, sovereignty rests on culture, predominantly Han. It already has a national identity before there was a nation called China which, over 3000-4000 years, keep changing in size and geography and ethnic makeup. Identity preceded, gobbled then birthed the ‘nation’.

In modern terms, though, nation first then comes national identity. Absent of that is a copycat version, such as Singapore, so that, invariably and as enunciated in LKY, there are multiple identities within a trumped-up nation. Since such a trumped-up nation is diverse, the problem that follows is called ‘unity’. But in what sense unity? Everyone goes under the same flag after all — and why is it preferred? Less conflict? But, here, the counterfactual reality: Scandinavia speaks the same language, only with minor variations. Yet it broke up into Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and they have since lived happily ever after. Ditto Czech Republic and Slovakia. Breaking up, it appears, becomes good, and single language is not a requisite of unity; further evidence of which is the Arab world. Therefore, has the ‘problem’ been imagined? Or, dare you say, manufactured?

2. Federation. Question: What is a federation? Fundamentally, it extents the idea of nation-state outwards, two or more nations or nation-states make a federation. It’s somewhat like, after independent Czech and Slovakia, comes Czechoslovakia. This creates a LKY problem: since Singapore is a country of multiple linguistic, ethnic nations, is it a federation? Of course it isn’t because one part is missing from the equation: ethnicity = nation = state. The state. Applied to Malaysia, the idea of federation gets far more problematic because, introduced into federation, are different histories, sultanate systems, tribal groups before that, and regionality, all jumbled up into just one thing — ethnicity. There are simply no clear-cut demarcations.

Take Malacca in its formative years. When Parameswara turned up at the Ming court of emperor Zhengde (rule, 1505-1521), so the off-archive stories say, the court scribes didn’t know how to place the man on record. If he is the sultan, what covers his domain and where? The sultan’s domain was a group of villages around a river mouth, and what’s name of the river, from which mountain does it flow out? No one at the time knew. All of which says, statehood hadn’t fully materialized and, hence, by extension a nation of Malacca which the Ming people finally gave it the name maliujia to bring into accord the earliest (Tang era) stated term, manlaja. The further back one goes, the more difficult it is pin down a nation and therefore the source of sovereign power.

Because the source of sovereign authority is critical to defining nation, and vice-versa, that, in its turn, matters to the creation of a federation or, under the current debate, in the opposite direction to un-federate. Which part or nation has greater say, or is it equal, and why. The Constitution is no help because it sets terms at only one point in time, at the moment of Malaysia’s birth, disregarding history in their entirety. In such a situation, arguments about federation and, related to it, unity, can regress to infinity reaching this: reductio ad absurdum. Meaning, reduction or argumentum to absurdity.

3. Bangsa Malaysia. Mahathir’s level of political understanding is one of his one thousand-and-one Achilles’ heels so that when he uses Bangsa as a means to create ‘unity’, he puts the cart before the horse. That is, it is a cart not even in existence. What exists though is a single country, one passport nationality, of multiple ethnics, origins, multiple nations and especially multiple federations. That is, Malaysia is a federation of federations, Federated Malay states, unfederated ones, Sabah, Sarawak. To drive such a cart — the so-called nation of Malaysia — Mahathir uses the horse named Bangsa. That was an entirely absurd set-up since race or ethnicity or a distinct group is the product of a nation and not the other way around.

Grouping all the peninsula states under the name Malaya has turned out to be a disaster. It permitted Umno far greater access to an even larger population, usurping sovereign power, beating all nine sultans combined. Expanding Umno to Sabah has further made the near impossibility of removing Najib right away. And then, decades later, there’s still no Bangsa in sight. Mahathir failed because the idea was never meant to succeed; it couldn’t; it became instead a convenient political tool — all the yada, yada about why Umno unites the Federation.

In trying to create Bangsa Malaysia, Mahathir was wrong in his assumption that there is even a Bangsa Melayu at the core around which everyone else rallies. He was wrong that the Malays or the bumis of Sarawak or Sabah want the same things as him, a mamak Malay after all. One final repudiation of Mahathir comes from Shafie Apdal, a Sabah Malay, when he refused to join Bersatu although both men are on the same side against Najib. Neither Mahathir nor Muhyiddin Yassin seem able to penetrate into that man Shafie: He must have seen how, from the lens of history, Bangsa Melayu, via Umno, created more divisiveness than to unite. Among the reasons is their differing sense of morality. Other reasons, practical ones relate to the spoils of plunder within an enlarged Umno. The net effect from the change in party demographics means there is less to be shared among more people with the result that the thieving today has to go into billions upon billions. Why is Mahathir is surprised by the scale of the 1MDB theft? He knew Umno had money politics in his days. Expand the party, expand the membership, expand their domains, you invariably have to expand patronage; money simply has to keep in step. Following which comes the question that dogs Federal-Sarawak relations: who gets more? No wonder, the Kadazandusuns have come to resent Umno so much. In the circumstances, who should Shafie serve? Sabah people or Putrajaya, with or without Umno? This is same position as the Johor sultanate who especially can’t be bribed because they don’t need Umno’s money and especially don’t want it. He was right about Mahathir.

Malaysia left as it were when we found it, might not have been so bad in hindsight, an excellent piece of rojak found no where else. Abstract concepts such as Bangsa are therefore best left to academic papers; the rest of us just want to get on with our lives, better still if we have 2.6 bn ringgit returned into our pockets.

The only thing today that unites Malaysia is the Law, that is, the Constitution, backed up by the Royal Malay Regiment; all else is just political claptrap. That is, Malaysia is not an ideological state, much less a civilizational state; it doesn’t belong to thugs nor thieves, it isn’t ruled by some idiot tribal family claiming to be descendants of some prophet. It is an artifice, like paper printed with dollar signs: what is legal is what can be imposed by force and by a man named Khalid Abu Bakar and behind him Najib Razak.

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The Problem of the South and East

Now that we have got the abstractions, along with Najib, out of the way, what’s the problem? Let’s deal with Sarawak and Johor simultaneously because, their grouses although seemingly different, allow for comparison but converging into just one conclusion….

Geography. Nearly all other countries are physically and geographically contiguous, a natural outcome in the birth of a country. (The last country split by distance went to war, among themselves, creating Bangladesh and Pakistan.) Not Malaysia. It is an absurdity in so many ways, and not just because it is separated by an ocean. Sarawak, supposedly an equal partner with the Peninsula, is bigger physically yet has only a small say and if it must beg do so softly. Johor isn’t Sarawak; not their histories, nor geography and especially not in their relationship with the Center, Putrajaya. On practical terms, then, the Center owes Sarawak more than it owes Johor; one is a signatory in the Federation, the other not. At Federal there is representation, but that’s only appearance because Umno is the master.

Resource sharing. Johor has no problem with this. Of course not; it has no oil, therefore, no money to share. This is, instead, Sarawak’s chief complaint and resource includes human resource, such as, how many Sarawakians are employed by Petronas. This gets into the headline because employment, people going in and out, is something that Sarawak has control. Trees and monkeys, jungle and mountains, Sarawak also has control but, out at sea, resource is federal jurisdiction and Federal is not three States together; it is not even Peninsula but Umno. Where ever oil exists, a Petronas project ought to be, on fair basis, and at the minimum, a 50:50 partnership. Instead, Umno sapu everything. (Taib Mahmud got money from trees and land, so didn’t care. 1MDB’s ability to borrow money at the blink of an eye was dependent directly on ability to repay, hence on Federal reputation and asset backing and that, in turn, dependent on Petronas. Fact: 1MDB’s USD6.5 bn raised was benchmark to Petronas.)

Getting a pittance is one thing, but to watch the money taken elsewhere and not put into the parts needed and useful is another. In 2009, 1MDB declared energy investment half a world away. Caspian Sea? Where is it? Whereas right in the front door is Sarawak and Najib never even gave it a thought, a people who, on point of politics, are his kin. (Mahathir is not much better though that came out of incompetency and faulty logic, not immorality.) In the circumstances, what would you therefore do if you were named Adenan? Answer: kick Petronas. The Sarawak-only employment is, in consequence, a manifestation of a dissatisfaction rather than the cause of any dispute. It also goes to show, along with other signs, that Najib has reneged on a deal with Adenan during the Sarawak elections. The latter now says, I helped you but you are not helping me. In Umno culture this is, biasa la: Najib is legendary in notoriety for breaking promises. Ask Hindraf. Or, look at 1MDB today and its promises in 2009.

Underlying those problems is, distribution of power.

Power Sharing. Johor’s power-sharing with Putrajaya precedes the Federal Constitution, going further back into past. That is Johor’s starting point, something quite unlike Sarawak where balance of power and sharing thereof is laid out under Constitutional rules. That being so, there is little to add. If power distribution between Sarawak/Sabah and Putrajaya is disproportionate and unequal, then, instead of blaming the Constitution it is incumbent on the Putrajaya to act in the spirit of the Federation not by Law. The onus is, thus, on Najib, Umno by extension, and not Barisan because within it Sarawak’s voice is no louder than a squid. Again, there has been equality gone kaput. If, therefore, the Federation cannot rely wholly on the Constitution it must also look at Najib’s motives, performance and results. And what’s the score in all areas? Zero!

Identity. Putrajaya is central because, under Najib especially, he perpetuated the fiction that Sarawak/Sabah is subsumed to the federal government. Federal has always meant Melayu.

But, what is the Melayu? This is so open-ended that when it gets more Arabic, more tribal, and more desert like nobody notices, much less acknowledge. Its culture becomes exclusionary, more distant and more antagonistic than what many Malays have tried, not all successfully, to portray all along as tolerant and all-embracing. Enter PAS. Enter Najib, and behind him Saudi Arabia, PAS and Jakim ustaz and imams. ISIS follows. The result seen today would be something unrecognizable at Malaysia’s birth and before that.

Identity, thus, and not just resource sharing, is Johor’s primary grouse with Putrajaya. It explains why the Johor royal house keeps talking about the past, invoking it even: your bangsa has become not our bangsa. This distinction rules out the dispute as one between Bangsa Malaysia and Bangsa Johor since the latter is but a cross-sectional slice of the former. The point of dispute must lay elsewhere, therefore, since regional loyalty can only has as much reality as national loyalty where, even there, it is questionable and never clear cut; Malaysia being what it is. But, hacked through these abstractions, one finds lying there in the thicket, matters that concerns morality, notions that encompass ideas of what’s just, fair, plural, tolerant, fortitude, righteousness and the much maligned word, dignity. One bangsa is simply no longer the bangsa the other knows since the culture enveloping it has long been corrupted and corroded.

Federal failure isn’t, therefore, just the failure to preserve the bangsa, agama dan negara idea — that is the cultural or ethnic elements of the actual Malay but also, and worse for it, its contribution in stripping away the bangsa-self. That is, the sense of loss in the easy-going and undogmatic person; one that’s more human than God.

Sarawak, too, shares the same grouse only to a lesser extent because Putrajaya is an ocean away and they have some powers, immigration for example, that can put a check on the Salafist proselytizing. But because identity has become so political, again beginning with Mahathir, it is all that Adenan can do is play along while inside he could just as well be seething with anger. Not coincidentally, Sarawak is the first to openly reject the hudud of PAS and the first to openly and defiantly permit English into its state and legislative proceedings.

Government. It underlies all the complaints: administrative, financial, resource use and distribution, power sharing, religion, sensitivities, morality. If the Federal government had upheld, even just half the things it professes to do then the present situation wouldn’t have degenerate to the degree it has. The failure of government has been momentous, piling up crisis on crisis. It is so stupid, so inept, and so disastrous that government failure is the byword in the lips of every man, woman and child, even among Umno members who preferred simply to shrug their shoulders and say, biasa la.

Umno alone, Najib by extension, has been acting the ultimate jurisdiction and sole authority in defining nationalism, identity and bangsa, including even its morals (recall, they say 1MDB is not theft). This has been emblematic in some of the greatest failures of the Federation and since Umno has sequestered all its powers it alone must bear full responsibility.

Endnotes.

Chinese. As an aside, the Chinese have no collective position on the sentiments of Johor and Sarawak: Is there a difference? Any where we go, we’re still pendatangs. Sarawak is ahead of Johor in regards to the Chinese; no madman ustaz to worry and Najib is on the other shore of the ocean.

Other notes. For too long, Mahathir et al have been promoting the fiction that Malays are super-tolerant whereas other people act the bully. He has been lucky to have compliant people to rule, people who have been tolerant. Now, along comes a super-thief Najib, then tangkap here, tangkap there, and tangkap everywhere. On his heels comes ISIS and 1MDB, and those are just desserts. If Johor and Sarawak comes out spitting, it is not by coincidence of timing. They prove the point that if you keep pushing and pushing, people will push back: the weapons of the weak.

But not us, the Chinese, Bro! We are just pendatang. If pendatang, we keep our mouths shut and so can you, Tun, like the Johor Sultan has so properly advised.

Take a break 老马. Only tell us with your mouth what you mean in your heart and understand, please, where you have been wrong because that’s the truth. Do that, and not only us, the Chinese, but Johor and Sarawak would be happy to join you to break that piece of Bugis pirate. We have to reset everything. Everything. First, though, you have to know where to begin. This whole business is not purely about Najib; he is nothing. Think about it a moment; he is nothing really. The bigger challenge is Malaysia and that starts in the heart, and no heart proves its intent waving flags on Merdeka day. Even thieves willingly do it.

(Pssst. Did you hear, Jebat. Don’t tell anyone: Petra Kamarudin has threatened to kill Chinese, another May 13, if we join the Pro-Tun ANC ‘conspiracy’. Don’t laugh, OK? But, from where you sit, can you hear the sound of those terrified Chinese knees knocking against each other? Send me a quick note if you do. And we’ll order those Knees to shut up; we’re giving ourselves away!)

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Oh, not the evening…

The soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes. — Edith Wharton

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An Imported Medieval Past: Malay & Yet Un-Malay

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Typically portrayed by the Salafist Arab Saudis and their fellow travellers, ISIS, and especially by the Malay ulama and ustaz, the medieval history of Islam is an unadulterated, pure, pristine and sinless world. If only the Malays return to that past, then life would be proper, fruitful and in accordance with the Islamic principles. Rubbish. Such a world is a PAS-Hadi Awang invention. Here is a book (cover pictured above) to prove it, but then the Arab world is right next door to the decadent West.

Titled The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, its writing started in 1314 by a retired Egyptian bureaucrat named Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri. It covers 9,000 pages in thirty volumes, an attempt to fit all of human history from Adam onward, all known plants and animals, geography, law, the arts of government and war, poetry, recipes, jokes, and of course, the revelations of Islam.

In one sample chapter:

That sly and brilliant one
Who grows girlish in his impudence
He appears manly at first
But after a drink is suddenly a woman
When you tell him: “Baby, say Moses,”
He lisps moistly: “Motheth”

That was about homosexuality: manly at first / suddenly a woman. ‘The juxtaposition is one of many in this bizarre, fascinating book that illustrate the sprawlingly heterodox reality of the early centuries of Islam, so different from the crude puritanical myths purveyed by modern-day jihadis,’ said the New York Review of Books in which the passage was cited. NYRB has reported that English translations of Erudition have begun to be published.

That passage wasn’t the only thing of course, reports NYRB. Another passage contains, ‘many formulae for enlarging the penis, tightening the vagina, enemas, suppositories, contraceptives, and other sexual aids, with titles like “A Recipe for Another Medicine that Produces Indescribable Pleasure.

NYRB:

Reading it is like stumbling into a cavernous attic full of unimaginably strange artifacts, some of them unforgettable, some merely dross. From the alleged self-fellation of monkeys to the many lovely Bedouin words for the night sky (“the Encrusted, because of its abundance of stars, and the Forehead, because of its smoothness”) to the court rituals of Egypt’s then-overlords, the Mamluks, nothing seems to escape Nuwayri’s taxonomic ambitions.

Nuwayri draws heavily on earlier Islamic sources, and his respect for tradition usually prevents him from passing judgment, even when the claims he is citing are hilariously implausible. In one section, for instance, he passes on a story about a sexually voracious she-bear who captures a man so that she can slake her lust on him again and again, licking his feet raw to prevent him from leaving the cave. Yet at a few points Nuwayri permits himself a brief editorial comment, as in one section about happiness: “Imru’ al-Qays was asked, ‘What is happiness?’ and he replied: ‘A delicate maiden burning with fragrance, burdened by her ample curves.’ He was infatuated by women.” At another point Nuwayri relays a story from “a trustworthy person among the Abyssinians” about how to escape the charge of a wild rhino: “If the man urinates on the rhinoceros’s ear, it will run away and not return to him. That way, the man will escape from it. God knows best.” One has to wonder if the pious addendum is slightly tongue-in-cheek—a rhetorical shrug of the shoulders.

At times Nuwayri allows his sources to compete with each other, citing different juristic opinions on wine-drinking, music, and the punishments for illicit sex. At least once, he even dramatizes such a disagreement:

The caliph al-Ma’mūn asked (the judge) Yaḥyā ibn Aktham about the meaning of desire, and he replied: “It is the auspicious thoughts that a man’s heart falls in love with and his soul esteems.” Then (the theologian) Thumāma spoke up and said: “Shut up, Yaḥyā! You should stick to answering questions about divorce or whether a pilgrim violates his ritual purity by hunting a gazelle or killing an ant.”

Mostly, the heterodoxy creeps in sideways, in the book’s unapologetic references to supposedly illicit pleasures. The section on the human body includes the sub-heading “On Poetic Descriptions of the Down on the Young Male Cheek.” The section titled “On the Buttocks” includes this poetic snippet:

The eyes of his onlookers gathered around
His haunches, like a second belt  

But Nuwayri is not deliberately sabotaging Muslim orthodoxy. He is merely reflecting a world in which moral prescriptions existed alongside a much messier reality, and some degree of dissonance between the two was accepted and forgiven.

This is continuation of the Finish Najib series, Part 2. Part 1.

To finish Najib, finish off all his scaffolding props.

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Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan Rakyat are the only reasons PAS is so gungho today. Invariably, the two had strengthened PAS which, in its turn, had strengthened the hand of Najib Razak. Without Umno doing a thing, the MO1 Thief has gotten 30-odd more seats in safety margin and, therefore, a political and electoral lifeline.

Najib’s fixed deposit is no more guaranteed from Sarawak or Sabah. It is PAS.

Zaid Ibrahim (above) has a valid point about Kelantan. There are two problems in his argument.

  • (a) Why stop at Kelantan?
  • (b) If Najib is the ultimate target, why limit the target mainly to Umno. Is PAS invincible, Allah or no Allah? Are Malays in Kelantan so stupid as not to see the betrayal by and, hence, immorality of PAS? Or 1MDB?

On the other hand, consider the following:

  • Fact: PAS is Najib’s fixed deposit today and in the future, fallout or no fallout from BN and/or Umno. He will not let PAS go, at whatever the dedak cost.
  • Fact: Another coalition with PAS seriously risk another betrayal while PAS still uses one of its vice-presidents as an opposition camouflage, saying bad things about Umno every now and then.
  • Fact: PAS has failed Kelantan for 30-40 years, from poverty to freedom issues.
  • Fact: The next GE is the last chance. Failing that, every Opposition political party close shop.
  • Fact: Up and down the country, Amanah v PAS immediately clears the seat distribution issue and leaves wide open for Bersatu v Umno, all one on one. No wasteful seat negotiations are necessary, just follow the old pattern.

The opposition coalition already has a foot in the door in Kelantan. Why be satisfied with just a couple of seats there? In pure Malay seats, Amanah v PAS would be difficult, of course, but neither Amanah nor Bersatu has anything to lose and all to gain. The Chinese will help finance your campaign: our badminton players got 200K more from Najib.

Drive out those Salafist ulamas from Kelantan to Kedah and Selangor back into the Arabian Dead Sea where they come from. PAS is easier than Umno to finish off but only if the two are made synonymous because they are. Finish PAS, finish off Najib: a fixed deposit asset is switched around to become his liability.

The road to Putrajaya is not straight. Go north then come back down. In the river, water always win over solid rock. Always.

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China and 1MDB

China’s Ambassador Huang Huikang (黄惠康 below) explain the involvement of two Chinese companies into Bandar Malaysia and Edra, both former companies of 1MDB. It is dated stuff. He however says nothing about KTM’s East Rail Link, and if there was such a contract tied to the bailout of a USD6-7 bn portion of 1MDB’s total debts, that portion to IPIC. Sarawak Report has so far offer no further information nor verification into the deal that was information obtained, it said, from a leak of documents a month or so ago.

感谢 祖国支持华 桥教育

Pity that man, how he struggles to bring out his thoughts in English and still keep them accurate.

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You think we’re gay?

To speak the truth is easy and pleasant. — Mikhail Bulgakov

With a contemptuous, haughty look on his face, Lee Chong Wei has vehemently (clip above) denied the existence of a letter from Lin Dan, a denial that was neither easy nor pleasant.

Perhaps there never was a letter, or perhaps there was a letter and never sent. Or, perhaps there was a letter sent and everyone had seen it other than Lee Chong Wei. It doesn’t matter one way or the other; if Chong Wei insists there isn’t then there isn’t. This planet will continue to spin regardless.

There are two problems with his denial though. One, it is his spitting tone. Second is the way he analogizes to a reporter about the letter (in translation from Chong Wei’s bazaar Malay): “Do you think we are in love writing letters! Jeez!

His obvious inference is that only people in love write letters, whether between genders or between men. There’s no other purpose that people write to each other.

Below are samples of letters, in poem form, written by Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770) and Li Bai 李白 (701–762) to each other and about each other.

Li Bai on Du Fu

(an unpolished English translation after that)

戏赠杜甫

饭颗山头逢杜甫
顶戴笠子日卓午
借问别来太瘦生
总为从前作诗苦

Drama at Old Fu

A mountain top snack comes with Du Fu

Bamboo hat shelters him from summer’s sun

Since the last we met, so thin he’s become

Yet, now or then, poetry agonizes him

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Du Fu to Li Bai (no translation)

夢李白 (之二)

浮雲終日行
遊子久不至
三夜頻夢君
情親見君意
告歸常局促
苦道來不易
江湖多風波
舟楫恐失墜
出門搔白首
若負平生志
冠蓋滿京華
斯人獨憔悴
孰云網恢恢
將老身反累
千秋萬歲名
寂寞身後事

Both men were contemporaries living at the time of the flowering of Tang art and literature, both minor officials, Li Bai the elder and more prone to drink, Du Fu prone to poverty (one of his children died of starvation) because he has endless trouble keeping his job. Poetry was a staple of Tang literature and people write to each other for all sorts of reasons, often times as an exchange of gifts for a wedding, a departure, birth and deaths. Here is a comment about the two:

One very revealing part of the Tang legacy is the handful of poems that Li Bai and Du Fu wrote to each other. Poems about friendship or those exchanged between friends were a standard element of the Tang poetic canon. But the poems between Li Bai and Du Fu have an incredible poignancy as they say so much about how these two great poets saw themselves and each other. Just imagine, for example, how meaningful it would be if Shakespeare and John Donne happened to exchange a few personal sonnets. So in a way, we have been permitted a much more intimate glimpse into the hearts and minds of these Tang poets even at such great temporal and cultural remove than we have of the most renowned poets in our own tradition.

The two men were seldom talked about independent of each other. An Oxford bibliography introductory comment:

From the earliest moment of their pairing, which we can date to the Middle Tang writings of Han Yu and Bai Juyi, there developed what we can rightly call the “Li-Du debate,” the terms of which became so deeply ingrained in the critical discourse surrounding these two poets that almost any characterization of the one implicitly critiqued the other. Remarkably, no argument attempting to reverse the terms or discredit this practice has quite succeeded in dissolving the cultural ties that bind Li Bai and Du Fu.

No words, no man. Without words, humans cease to exist. Words from Lin Dan to Chong Wei would be perfectly normal. The Lin Dan letter had a lot of details, not in any personal, individual sense but speaks instead of a relationship at a deeply existential level. Nothing in it suggests gay or love, none at all.

Yet, why did Chong Wei bring it up? If there was no letter then it was simple enough to say so. After which Chong Wei might say he wish there was indeed such a letter — especially one so well written, and profound. He could just as well add, Lin-Lee is the post-modern Li-Du over a net. Anyone got a problem with that?

Instead, in his haughty tone, Chong Wei was simultaneously disdainful and snooty (in the clip, look out for that ugliness), all characteristic, and the exact replica, of some illiterate, fucked-up, old timer MCA businessman who thinks he knows the world better than everybody else. Where did Chong Wei learn his speech manners? In some Malaysian New Village? What had his father taught him? Or his mother? Where did he go to school? What did he learn in school?

Chong Wei, it’s time to hang up your racket and get an education, boy. Try English if hanzi baffles you. That way, you get to read more letters. You seem to know nothing, understand nothing, so that all you can do with your life, now coming to an early end, is to prance around a net smashing shuttlecocks. Your hands may be fast, but your brains … it works like your incredibly stupid tongue.

You should read more letters, towkay Lee, and learn from the Russians: they are masters with the truth. You…?

Last thing: Now that you’ve done your promotion of Najib Razak, why don’t you go back to your toys.

* https://i1.wp.com/www.tangspirit.net/200.0.1.0.16777215.0.stories.large.2011.04.24.LiBai.jpg

Lee Chong Wei logic: They (above and below) write letters to each other, so they must be gay.

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***



Excerpt

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Through the Snow

How are roads beaten through virgin snow? A man walks in front, sweating and swearing, barely able to place one foot in front of the other, constantly getting stuck in the deep, powdery snow. He walks a long way, leaving behind him a trail of uneven black pits. He gets tired, he lies down on the snow, he lights a cigarette, and a blue cloud of makhorka smoke spreads over the white shining snow. The man has already gone on further but the cloud still hangs where he rested – the air is almost motionless. Roads are always beaten on still days, so that human toil is not erased by the winds. The man chooses markers for himself in the snowy infinity: a cliff, a tall tree. He pilots his body through the snow, just as a helmsman steers a boat down a river, from headland to headland. Shoulder to shoulder, in a row, five or six men follow the man’s narrow and uncertain track. They walk beside this track, not along it. When they reach a predetermined spot, they turn round and walk back in the same manner, tramping down virgin snow, a place where man’s foot has never trodden. The road is opened. Along it can move people, strings of sleighs, tractors. If the others were to follow directly behind the first man, in his footsteps, they would create a narrow path, a trail that is visible but barely walkable, a string of holes more impassable than virgin snow. It’s the first man who has the hardest task; when he runs out of strength, someone else from that vanguard of five goes out in front. Every one of them, even the smallest, even the weakest, must tread on a little virgin snow – not in someone else’s footsteps. The people on the tractors and horses, however, will be not writers but readers.

Written in 1956; first published in 1978

Translated by Robert Chandler and Nathan Wilkinson

***

 

 

There he goes again: Money. Reported in Malaysiakini:

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced an additional RM200,000 for those who bagged silver and bronze medals in the Rio 2016 Olympics. Prior to this, he said, the government pledged RM300,000 for those who won silver. “Today, the government will add another RM200,000, making it (the total) half a million.”

*

A Short Note of Thanks to Najib Razak

Dear Najib,

This is a quick note to thank you for your kind generosity. We, the Chinese, are returning the money. All of it. Again, thank you and — Fuck you.

Free Namewee!

Pendatang Cina

***

Why Namewee must be freed

(Scroll to the bottom for the last segment of post.)

 

chop the roots of Najib. Crush the al-Sauds.

Who are they? What are they? Here’s the opening bid…

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Saudi Arabia, the World’s Greatest Evil

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Backed by the World’s Greatest Power

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…Their Trail of Destruction. In Yemen

US Aiding and Abetting Saudi Slaughter in Yemen

The [Saudi coalition, including Malaysia,] air force bombs: [They] bomb our sons and our daughters, our men and our friends. Why are they doing this? What have we done to them?Yemeni man in Sana’a

But why the Saudi carpet bombing? Answer by Saudi Arabia to Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Riyadh: “We want to wipe out the Houthis.

Excerpted from Democracy Now.

Andrew Cockburn, Washington Editor, Harper’s: [T]hey’ve [the Saudis] attacked—consistently attacked economic targets having nothing to do with any kind of war effort, but like potato chip factories, water bottling factories, power plants. It’s an effort to destroy Yemen. And that’s what, as Kristine said, we are part of that. This is our war, and it’s shameful.

I mean, I’ll give you one quick example. Yes, everyone is horrified by Syria and what’s going on there, and quite rightly so. And we’ve had this picture of that poor Syrian child that’s gone viral. Yesterday, The New York Times had one—you know, had a piece saying one—a picture of one Syrian child went viral, but here are seven others, so seven other children that got similarly affected. And I thought, “Oh, maybe they’ll mention a Yemeni.” Not so. Syrian other—seven other unfortunate Syrian children. But I defy you to find a single picture in The New York Times or any other mainstream New York media of any of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Yemeni children, because no one really knows how many have been wounded or killed by the Saudi bombing.

Sen. Chris Murphy: There is an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen. Why? Well, it’s because though the Saudis are actually dropping the bombs from their planes, they couldn’t do it without the United States. It’s our munitions, sold to the Saudis. It’s our planes that are refueling the Saudi jets. And it’s our intelligence that are helping the Saudis provide their targeting. We have made a decision to go to war in Yemen against a Houthi rebel army that poses no existential threat to the United States.

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In Syria: Hillary’s Fingerprints All Over

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Hacked emails prove Hillary armed jihadists in Syria, including ISIS

Fresh off of throwing the Democratic National Convention into turmoil after proving that party officials had conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced that he has some even more damaging material in his trove of hacked emails — this time involving Hillary Clinton pushing to arm jihadists in Syria, including ISIS. — DailyWire

Those Hillary Clinton emails, they connect together with the cables that we have published of Hillary Clinton, creating a rich picture of how Hillary Clinton performs in office, but, more broadly, how the U.S. Department of State operates. So, for example, the disastrous, absolutely disastrous intervention in Libya, the destruction of the Gaddafi government, which led to the occupation of ISIS of large segments of that country, weapons flows going over to Syria, being pushed by Hillary Clinton, into jihadists within Syria, including ISIS, that’s there in those emails. — Julian Assange

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In Libya, Hillary Again

The Hillary Clinton accountability: You would have seen it all in Malaysia under Najib.

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US & Saudi Salafism & ISIS

Why Saudi Arabia, not Iran is the country responsible for the spread of terrorism. From the Duran:

Denunciations by the US of Iran as the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism are way off the mark. The record shows that Iran is not involved in terrorism to any significant degree and that it is Wahhabist Sunni groups ultimately connected to Saudi Arabia, not Shia groups connected to Iran, which are the main practitioners of terrorism.

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In the House of Al-Saud: al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jihadists

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Left side of the above paired photos: Mahmoud Raslan (in blue, front) is the man taking a selfie with an armed group in Syria. Raslan also took the photo on the right, which is used to show, in red lines, two of the men with another group involved in the ISIS beheading of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy last July in Aleppo, Syria.

And Mahmoud Raslan is the same man who took the photo, below, which has got the world weeping for Allah and Muslim kids, among who are all of Malaysia’s naive, bleeding heart PKR arsehole politicians, starting with Nurul.

Like ISIS is so good at duplicity, so is Najib Razak their professed admirer.

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Saudi, Salafist Beginnings & the Origins of Islam

Just as Arabs created Islam to buttress their conquest and provide legitimacy of rule by invoking divinity (a Roman secular idea), the ‘people’s will’ in modern democracy, PAS and Umno conveniently used Islam for their political conquest. God was made in the process, not the other way around.

Islam is an Arab religion as Christianity is a Jew religion. None originated from this part of the world. Why, when Malays would reject Europeans who presented them Christianity, should they accept the Arabic word, Quran or no Quran? Where is Merdeka, if Malaysia, Malays especially, shackle independence to the history of a band of nomadic camel herders?

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Jihad, ISIS Beginnings & the Origins of Islam

The Saudis and ISIS sing from the same hymn sheet. — Tom Holland, UK historian

***


*

To Save Malaysia: Finish the Al-Sauds

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Yesterday’s photo, below: Najib Razak (below) with religious advisers to the Saudi king, a country named after the al-Saud family, the only such country in the world.

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Najib’s penchant for associating with medieval fascist and religious tribal thugs has become a characteristic of his rule of Malaysia. Like the al-Saud name is invoked to declare ownership of a country, Najib invokes his Bugis ancestry and his father to gain legitimacy — especially after stealing USD billions — and then make every party stooge sing the refrain that Umno is Najib and loyalty to Umno is loyalty to Najib.

There have been no shortage of Umno arseholes tripping over each other to pledge loyalty and, in the process, say all sorts of absurdities. Nawawi Ahmad and Idris Haron are among the latest. Even pondans like Azalina O are doing it, so why not Nazri or Hisham.

Yet, in plain truth, Najib is just a common thief and 21st Century pirate, now dressed and robed in some camouflage, foreign desert tribal god that has absolutely nothing to do with original Malay culture.

Why not go all the way: Umno politicians should proposed a constitutional change of Malaysia’s name. How about Al-Najibstan? Who is to stop the man? He already has Umno allegiance. He does what he wants; he owns this fucked-up country, and to prove his Salafist credentials to the al-Saud, he aligns Umno with PAS and prosecutes anybody who ever question Salafist allegiance but calls it ‘protecting Islam’.

Namewee is the among the first Chinese to suffer under Najib’s Salafist deity worship.

To solve Malaysia’s problems and get Najib out of the way simultaneously, perhaps the Opposition should form a pact with Iran and Russia, after which those Shia Ayatollahs would be welcomed to nuke Saudi Arabia and turn that desert into fine ash — and so be done, once and for all, with a 1,400 year-old tribal rivalry spilling into SEA shores. After which, the world might just get back some peace.

It is a not a coincidence that modern day’s biggest financial fraud has an al-Saud name affixed. And, further, if the al-Saud family bring their problems to us, we take our problems to them.

*

if Najib Razak survives?

She, clip above, has asked herself the same question, ‘What if…‘. She has found no answer other than to be greeted by uniformed police thugs and to be met with frustration and helplessness in the face of the world’s most powerful fraudster. All this leads to utter despondency, and the despair shows: ‘Why do you all pretend nothing has happened?’ she screams in the end. Why indeed.

***


The Zimbabwe of Asia

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In a Mugabe street, the Zimbabwean dollar is so worthless, cheaper even than the paper it is printed on, only kids had any use for it. Question: Will it take 20 years, the duration it took Mugabe to wreck everything? Or, will it come sooner? Najib’s present allies are 3 million Umno members and a coterie of sycophants online and off. Fed on dedak or made inept by their cheap, third rate minds schooled by Umno teachers, spewing daily garbage on their websites, they all pretend as well.

Meanwhile, the big shot hedonistic pomp and their big shot KFC dinners… small minds are easily impressed.

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You can almost picture Najib in Mugabe’s place beneath the phalanx of swords. He’d borrow them from PAS Kelantan though, but those keris aren’t long enough. Below, with Mugabe in 2011 in Langkawi, the 1MDB year when he had already ripped off USD1 bn and was preparing for an even bigger heist, USD6 bn.

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Whatever government I succeed in creating will certainly adhere to the letter and spirit of our constitution since that government will itself have been the product of such a constitution. Only a government that subjects itself to the rule of law has any moral right to demand of its citizens obedience to the rule of law. I urge you, whether black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive others and forget, join hands in a new amity, and together, as Zimbabweans, trample upon racialism, tribalism, and regionalism, and work hard together to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.

Those words are Robert Mugabe’s, in 1965. So soothing to the ear, how, from the mouth of Najib, can it not be anything else but uplifting — for the Melayu especially. They are a reminder though: Never trust words. Never! They are created only for that moment.

Now, compare those promises above with the anecdotes below.

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Malaysia’s Zimbabwe Future

They taught us to read but there were no books. — A Zimbabwe man to Doris Lessing

Only someone who’s lived [there can] understand why. They are so dead and narrow and stultifying. If you are living in that kind of society where a small number of people are oppressing a great many, they become obsessed by the fact, and they talk about nothing else, day and night. And I always think of Goethe, who said, if you are going to keep a man down in the ditch, you are going to have to get into the ditch with him. — Doris Lessing

*

Consider any of the Umno ministers, ‘Tengku’ Adnan, Salleh Rahman, Ismail Sabri and others, Idris Haron or ‘Langkawi’ Nawawi and their goons, from the IGP to Petra Kamarudin (RPK). Gather their remarks, from ‘if I say I am rich, I’m inviting kidnap‘ to ‘Umno is sacred, next to god‘ and ‘Najib is Allah’s gift to Umno‘, or RPK’s ‘Mahathir is dead duck‘, what emerges from the collage is a picture of a psychotic and insane clique, megalomaniac to boot.

But all that is still quite insufficient to picture the kind of a future Malaysia if Najib survives. Their words come from something and must go somewhere. But where? What of it?

C.B. George writes:

As I write this, Harare is in the throes of civil unrest. After more than 35 years under the government of President Robert Mugabe and ZANU (PF), the people’s exhausted torpor seems to have finally given way to existential terror. Yesterday, Zimbabweans took to the streets demonstrating against police harassment, unpaid wages, cash shortages and rampant corruption; and the corrupt, cash-strapped, underpaid, harassed police meted out summary justice. Who knows where it will end?

This morning I get an email from a friend who’s been following the news. He has a question and, in the absence of knowing someone on the ground, turns to me (thus allowing the pair of us to indulge the grand tradition of discussing Zimbabwe’s wellbeing at great distance). The essence of his question is this—why’s it taken so long for the citizens to rise up? Solemnly accepting the responsibility of my role as “expert,” my answer is long and various. But, in this context, one paragraph is relevant. “You need to understand,” I write. “That the success of the independence war against an apartheid regime was predicated on uniting the people behind the freedom fighters as the authentic heirs to Zimbabwe. Since 1980, ZANU have successfully maintained this narrative to the point that the President has almost been portrayed as the personification of the nation. Any dissenting voice, therefore, can be represented as not just anti-government, but anti-Zimbabwean.”

No sooner do I send this off than I read of the President’s response to the demonstrators. “They are not part of us,” he says. Trust me, the “us” here is not “us, ZANU,” it is “us, Zimbabwe.” He is saying, if you don’t support me, you are not an authentic Zimbabwean. That is quite an assertion for someone who claims a democratic mandate.

Malaysia’s future foretold in pariah Zimbabwe isn’t as bad as living it. Mugabe took a dozen years to turn a once model state to an insane institution; and the two histories are strikingly similar. Why not the future as well?

Najib’s future way of dealing with Malaysia isn’t just plausible, therefore; it is completely real and already present. Mugabe required no external support. All he had to do was changed the history then plunder its past and all its plantations and its diamond and gold mines. He is still around because, he says, of democracy.

The ways of Mugabe before, and now Najib, isn’t just financial or material plunder; with power on Najib’s side, those acts would be easy.

The other, ongoing part today is to sequester the colonialist Umno idea then embody himself into it as the ultimate national identity for which the general Malay population already supported. Out of that process, it is to denigrate and simultaneously overturn every known value and thus to create a new absurdity.

Najib’s inspiration isn’t the Saudis or Marcos, although those would have helped; it is Zimbabwe.

Seeing the future today, we are left just with this option: tie up Najib’s legs, bound his hands and hurl him down the well of history.

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Mugabe’s 12 million ringgit mansion in Bukit Tunku, above, and in Harare below.

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*

In Hong Kong circa 2016, Aug 20: The Equanimity which Jho Low had bought with money that didn’t belong to him.

Got a good celebrity fuck last night, Joey Boy? Keep it up, and make the most of it while you still can. After that, we swear on your grandfather’s grave we are going to nail your motherfucking arse, and as Petra Kamarudin would have it, cut off your balls and nail them onto a cell wall, one for Najib Razak, the other Rosmah.

***



*

In Support of Namewee

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因为有你,才有了更好的我。… 抱你的时候,我真是觉得,这十几年,和你,仿佛是一场梦。 我会拿着你的球衣,和我未来的孩子说。有个叫李宗伟的叔叔,是爸爸最伟大的对手,也是最好的朋友。 — 于林丹李宗伟

Only because of you, there is a better me. … When I hugged you I felt the past ten years with you had been a dream. I will take your jersey to my future child and say, ‘There is an uncle named Lee Chong Wei, your dad’s greatest rival and best friend.‘  — Lin Dan to Chong Wei

247c

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When Lin Dan hugged then took off his jersey to exchange it with Lee Chong Wei, English-language television commentators said the gesture was one of true Olympian sportsmanship. They were completely wrong, and untrue. It was a deeply personal act, as Lin Dan’s letter (below) will show. Outside Malaysia, Chong Wei would joke that his name-initials LCW means ‘Let China Win’. Friendship and rivalry are simply the flip sides of the same coin: rivalry strengthens friendship and vice-versa, a concept that westerners and Anglophiles seem to have trouble understanding.

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Malaysiakini English editors had on the night of the Olympic semi-final badminton match titled their report, ‘Lee Chong Wei slays Lin Dan‘. They weren’t just false in the word ‘slay’, but the editors also revealed their utter anti-Chinese prejudices and ignorance. Lin Dan’s letter to Lee Chong Wei (below in Chinese and translated English) will show that. It needed to wait a dozen years to write.

More to the point, the letter is a classic. In it Lin Dan reflects the deep and profound Chinese philosophical traditions and especially its existential outlook, preceding even Kierkergaard and Sartre, and in ways that illiterate Malaysian Anglophiles and Malaiyoos will never understand. The existential idea says this, without the existence of One, there is no the Other. Without Chong Wei, there is no Lin Dan and vice-versa; without silver there will never be gold.

Another Lin Dan example: “We’re not measured by results“. A few paragraphs later, he adds, “It took me some effort to beat the Indian kid… When I didn’t want to press on, I would remember my promise I had with you, the promise to meet you in the semi-finals…

The inference is most profound: Lee Chong Wei, feted by all Malaysia as badminton master, could have been possible only because of another Chinese named Lin Dan, a good man from our Motherland.

Lin Dan’s letter first appeared in public in the Chinese sina.com site titled 情怀|林丹李宗伟给彼此的信 . It begins, thus, wuxiong zongwei 吾兄宗伟 My clan elder brother Wei. [Letter in English translation after the hanzi version.]

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林丹的信。他们的奥运四分之一决赛比赛结束后一天。

吾兄宗伟

昨天看你扔下球拍、在空中跳起怒吼的时候,我真的很为你高兴。

  我们俩,认识该有十六年了吧。当年我们还意气风发,那时有陶菲克,有皮特盖德,我们俩还不够出色,第一次交手我赢了,可是我们谁也不会想到,这么多年来,竟然和你打了这么多场比赛。

  我们互有胜负,当然,让我小小骄傲一下,还是我赢得更多一些。但我不想谈成绩怎样怎样,因为你我早已不是可以用成绩来衡量的人。有人叫我“超级丹”,也有人为你感到悲情,因为你,感觉运气总是比我差一点,每次大赛的时候,我都能赢你一头。

  还是挺感谢你的。我的名字里,除了那些大满贯、冠军外,还有个温情的联系“林李”。我们也能像C罗与梅西,伯德和魔术师,费德勒和纳达尔一样,因为彼此的存在而永恒。

  因为有你,才有了更好的我。我拿到了几乎都能拿到的冠军,却依然不敢放下心来去偷懒。本来我可以高唱着无敌最是寂 寞,可是因为有你,每次都把我逼出冷汗,每次都能在决赛和我隔网相对的你。你在后面拼了命的追我,我也不能就这样让你轻易杀过来啊。你练,我也练。你不服 输,我不敢懈怠。

  就这样,我们都成了老家伙了。后来者越来越多了。我偶尔和你短信聊聊天,说说这些年轻人。他们不行啊,诸强争霸,哪像我们那个时候,只有我们两个。说实话,挺寂寞的,但是每次和你对战,都能将我全身的力量迸发出来。我练了这么久的剑,只有你,配得上我剑刃出鞘。

  于是,就到了里约,我的第四届奥运会。四分之一决赛的时候,我打印度那小子挺费劲的,但我挺了过来。当我差点没坚持住的时候,我就想起自己和你的约定,和你在半决赛相会的约定。

  第三十七次和你隔网相对,离第一次已经过了一个轮回。说真的,当我滑了那一下输给你的时候,我没有遗憾。你是我最伟大的对手,我愿意输给你,不后悔。抱你的时候,我真是觉得,这十几年,和你,仿佛是一场梦。

  我会拿着你的球衣,和我未来的孩子说。有个叫李宗伟的叔叔,是爸爸最伟大的对手,也是最好的朋友。

  最好的年华遇见你,是我的运气。决赛加油。——林丹

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Lin Dan’s Letter to Chong Wei the day after their Olympic semi-final match.

The English translation below, found in says. com, is not perfect but sufficient to reflect not just Lin Dan’s thoughts and feelings but especially his deep association with Chong Wei, a relationship rooted in their common Chinese ancestry, a cultural idea that transcends nationality and geography.

Such a feeling is possible only between two Chinese (not Anglophiles). Lin Dan spoke of it as the Lee-Lin relationship. That and the fact that Chong Wei and he had already met in the semi-finals explain why Lin Dan felt no longer compelled nor motivated to fight and win the bronze.

In beating Lin Dan, then crying over the victory, the Danish kid Viktor Axelsen thought he had beaten, with better skills, the World No. 1 badminton player. Axelsen probably thinks that skills is the final and most important arbiter in a contest. He could not have been more mistaken, but he doesn’t know it.

The letter is most moving when read in hanzi. From says.com:

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你是我最好的朋友 也是我的真爱

mug

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